I don't know how you guys approach a new game (or any kind of software). Personally, I never read a manual until I need to. I don't even play tutorials. I just get right into it until I stumble across something I don't quite understand. Then I look it up in the manual, and I expect to find a complete and comprehensive answer there. And in my opinion, game manuals generally suck. But who needs a 200-page PDF if you can't find what you need, and quickly?
I think I understand that pretty well. I'm writing software myself, and I know that maybe a third of your time should be devoted to documenting your work. So much for theory. Documenting stuff isn't fun. What you really want is to fix the most serious bugs, and Go Where No Man Has Gone Before, i.e. add cool new features. You can write the manual on a lazy sunday afternoon, one of these days. Maybe. On the other hand... you could spend the time writing a cool new feature instead, or squash a few bugs. It's more fun and actually makes the world a better place. Writing manuals is for bureaucrats, anyway. Not us creative types.
Oh, it gets worse. Because after adding a cool new feature, you have not only to fix the new bugs, but also update the manual. Tell the users what this new button does. As if the buggers couldn't find out for themselves, simply by clicking on it. You rewrite half the bloody manual every week. Geez, and now you suddenly notice that parts of what you wrote last week are utterly incomprehensible, even to you.
Ideally, you could have somebody else write the manual for you. In the world of niche-market wargames, that somebody is probably your publisher's secretary's nephew, and he's being paid a hundred bucks for the job. That can turn out to be a blessing or a curse. A curse, because maybe he's not really doing a good job and doesn't even know the game well enough to write the manual. When you find out, the game is already shipping. Or a blessing, because he starts at zero, just like any new player, and is much better suited to explain the system, step by step, because he had to understand it all himself very recently.
Actually, I think Vic wrote most of the manual himself. That's why you sometimes find details there you don't really want to know, but also sometimes look for the very basics in vain. That (again, in my limited experience) happens when you document something you've been familiar with for years, because you wrote it yourself. The basics are so obvious to you that sometimes, you forget to explain them.
< Message edited by zook08 -- 2/25/2008 5:42:09 AM >